CC Sabathia brought it from the pitcher’s mound against the Red Sox on Thursday night, pitching six strong innings in the Yankees’ 6-2 victory to kick off their biggest series of the season.
Then he really brought the heat afterward, excoriating the Yankees’ rival for bunting on him — not only Thursday night but also at Fenway Park on Aug. 19.
“It’s kind of weak to me,” said Sabathia, who matched a season high in walks with five but allowed only one run and four hits. “It just kind of shows what they’ve got over there.”
In the first inning, Eduardo Nuñez, Sabathia’s former Yankees teammate, bunted to the right side of the mound and the pitcher’s throw pulled Greg Bird off first base. Sabathia walked two to load the bases with one out but escaped by striking out Xander Bogaerts and Rafael Devers.
As Sabathia returned to the dugout, he appeared to yell in the direction of the Boston dugout. Andrew Benintendi was among those who bunted against Sabathia at Fenway.
After initially explaining what had him so pumped up by saying “it was a big game,” he unloaded, adding that the bunt provided “big-time” motivation for him the rest of the way.
“It just gets you fired up,” he said, adding that Nuñez “apologized” to him before his next at-bat. “It makes you want to beat them. Obviously, I want to win every time out there, but even more so after that. [I mean], let’s go, let’s play. Swing the bat.”
Did the Red Sox have a reaction when he yelled their way?
“I don’t give a [expletive] about their reaction,” Sabathia said. “I’m sorry, but I don’t really care about what they have to say. I’m out there early every day. If they have something to say, we can meet in centerfield.”
Obviously, from a baseball standpoint, bunting makes sense against Sabathia. He is not quick off the mound and has a bad right knee, which is well documented.
“I just think I’m a bigger guy and I can’t field my position, so we’re going to try and bunt and get some guys on instead of swinging the bat,” Sabathia said. “They really have a good lineup and put some tough at-bats on you, and that’s what I want to do. I want to go out there and compete against a good team. I just feel like sometimes when they do that, they don’t want to [compete]. And I’m ready to compete and go . . . I’m an old man. They should want to go out and try to kick my butt, and I just feel like they try to take the weak road.”
The performance by Sabathia (11-5, 3.71), who is 4-0 with a 1.04 ERA in four starts against the Red Sox this season, was critical for the Yankees (71-62), who snapped a three-game skid and climbed within 4 1⁄2 games of the Red Sox (76-58).
Sabathia improved to 8-0 with a 1.44 ERA in 10 starts following a Yankees loss this season.
“It’s fun seeing him fired up out there,” said Greg Bird, who went 2-for-4 with three RBIs, including a two-run homer. “He steps up whenever we need him.”
The Yankees had 14 hits, including two each from Brett Gardner, Aaron Hicks, Gary Sanchez, Chase Headley and Bird. Sanchez hit his 28th homer of the season, and 12th in the month of August, in the third inning to tie it at 1. Bird’s two-run shot gave the Yankees a 4-1 lead in the sixth.
Aaron Judge, dropped to sixth in the order, went 0-for-2 with two walks and a run.
Dellin Betances had a wild ninth but got two outs with the tying run at the plate. After walking Chris Young, he hit Christian Vazquez and Brock Holt to load the bases with none out. After Nuñez struck out and Benintendi walked to force home a run, Betances got Mookie Betts to pop up and pinch hitter Mitch Moreland to fly out.
“This is fun,” Sabathia said. “I love this. Especially here at the end now of my career, being able to still pitch in meaningful games against the Red Sox is a lot of fun.”